My Samsung Galaxy Note II is very useful to me in a lot of ways. It’s an Android phone with a large screen. These are some of the ways I use it for genealogy, and perhaps others have useful tips to leave here also.
- Access my Ancestry.com trees. Anywhere I am – on a cemetery trip, in a library, meeting another genealogist, or just sitting around reading, I can access my Ancestry.com tree using the app on my phone. It’s actually quite full-featured and useful and contains all the documents you’ve attached to a person. I’ve been known to pull the car over in a neighborhood and click through all the way to an old census page, looking for an address.
- Use the directions feature on Google maps to navigate. If I’m going somewhere for the first time, like a cemetery or town hall, I set up the Google maps app to speak the instructions to me while I’m driving. This works pretty well for me. I hate to count on it though, because even with a reliable carrier, the signal can get out of range in a remote location, so I try to have some type of paper map, usually printed the night before OR a saved snapshot from the map site.
- Scan books. I had a post a while back about turning my cell phone into a book scanner. I find that the scanning goes amazingly fast, however, processing those pages into a set, checking for errors and regulating the size of the final document took some getting used to. With practice I should get pretty fast at that.
- Place directions or notes on the home screen when going to a repository. I use Evernote for all notes about repositories including directions, open hours, and my to-do list in each location. I find it helpful, in advance of a trip, to add the specific Evernote page I need to my home screen. Then there’s less fumbling around.
- Use as a camera. Of course I usually bring my camera for a planned trip, but it’s nice to have a backup and emergency camera for times when I forget the camera or didn’t know I would need it. This is especially important because I never photocopy, I always take pictures. Cell phone cameras are getting better and better. When I get back to my computer, the pictures have automatically uploaded to DropBox already.
- Read books on the Kindle app. My phone is also a source of genealogy books in a pinch since the Kindle app works really well. Waiting in a doctor’s office or waiting to pick someone up, it’s great to spend 15 minutes reading.
- Access documents anywhere. Like all genealogists I have a large collection of pdf books and all types of documents on my computer at home. Through Dropbox, I can access them at any time through my cell phone, tablet, or another computer. I had a bad experience early on with Dropbox, but Dropbox and I started getting along a lot better when I limited my Dropbox account to just three folders – my book folder, my document folder, and my cell phone picture folder. It’s not unusual for me to be out at a library, say, and want to see a deed I had photographed a year before. I do pay for a large-size Dropbox account. Knowing that my work is safe is very important to me.
- Use the Amazon app. I tend to use libraries as a way to preview older books I might like to own. This is especially true since most reference books do not circulate, or I may be visiting a library far from home. Using the Amazon app, I quickly track down the exact book and see what used copies are available, and often buy them right there.
I keep track of the books I already have at home by photographing each shelf regularly, so when away from home I can quickly find the shelf picture, zoom in and make sure I don’t have it.
- Keep up with podcasts. I use long drives as a way to catch up on all my favorite genealogy podcasts like Marian Pierre-Louis’ Fieldstone Common, or The Genealogy Guys. I have a simple little cord that plugs my phone into the “AUX” plug in my car, allowing me to hear the show on the car radio. I also try to plug the car charger in so I don’t wear down the battery.
- This is the one you won’t really believe. I actually transcribe long documents using my cell phone. I discovered this by accident, really, noticing the little microphone every time I typed an email on my phone. I tried dictating the email message instead, and it worked beautifully. It is not quite so perfect transcribing old documents, but useful enough that I prefer it to typing. I dictate slowly and clearly into a gmail message (you need to speak the punctuation, like “comma”), then email it to myself and pull it up on my computer. When working on a court case from Vermont, 1816, I read the entire record aloud in about a half hour, then corrected it. I’m sure others have far more sophisticated set ups for this, but it works for me, and it’s free.
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